- Program overview
- Why choose VCU
- Enrollment and financing
- Frequently asked questions
- About the paralegal industry
- Meet your instructors
- Paralegal industry resources
What's your next step?
The VCU paralegal certificate program is a six-month noncredit certificate program designed to advance legal industry skills and career options. We focus on practical knowledge in the law profession that paralegals will need to succeed in the legal workplace.
Students complete six educational courses: Introduction to Law, Torts & Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Legal Research & Writing, Business Law and Contract Law. Upon completion of the necessary requirements, you will receive a certificate of completion in paralegal studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, on behalf of the Office of Continuing and Professional Education.
Who should enroll in the paralegal certificate program?
- Career changers seeking a professional career with strong compensation
- Legal assistants and staff wishing to enhance or advance their careers by earning a professional credential
- Students considering law school who would like to get a head start within the industry
As a participant in the VCU Paralegal Program, you'll benefit from the following courses:
Career Preparation and Career Portfolio – The three career preparation classes will help you to jumpstart your paralegal career. You will learn about preparing your resume, updating your interview skills and successfully networking. In addition, you will complete a paralegal career portfolio at the end of the program.
The paralegal career portfolio is a compilation of written assignments for the program along with your resume. It will visually help you to put your best foot forward during your interviews. You will highlight and showcase your credibility in the legal field.
Introduction to Law – This course provides an introduction to the function and sources of American law, the American legal system, and legal practice, focusing on the role of the paralegal. Recent developments, especially in regard to regulatory proposals affecting paralegals, are emphasized. The course examines paralegal career issues, including ethics. Students will get an overview of legal writing and the civil litigation process.
Torts & Personal Injury – Tort & Personal Injury Law students will examine the rights and duties imposed by the system governing civil liability for wrongful conduct. Students will learn the various causes of action, defenses and remedies available when a person or property has been damaged by the act or failure to act of another. Topics include negligence, intentional torts, strict liability, products liability, and defamation as well as the practical applications of investigating a case, filing pleadings, and working in a tort law setting.
Civil Litigation – Civil law is the body of law which determines private rights and liabilities. In this class, students will learn about the structure of the federal and state judicial systems; the types of cases that may be brought in civil court; the federal and state procedural rules governing civil cases; and the trial process from start to finish with an emphasis on practical skills including the preparation of pleadings and discovery documents.
Legal Research & Writing – In this course students will learn the essentials of how to find, use, analyze and cite to different legal authority using online sources. Students will learn what legal resources are appropriate to access in response to questions and facts presented, including the differences in primary, secondary, mandatory and persuasive authority. While utilizing Lexis Nexis online database, students will learn how to analyze a case opinion, research and analyze an issue, and prepare a written memorandum explaining results.
Contract Law – The Contract Law session will provide students with a strong background in the fundamentals and essential principles of the law of traditional and e-contracts. The course prepares students to encounter and work with all areas of substantive law related to contracts including common law, case law, and the Uniform Commercial Code. Topics covered include contract formation, elements of a valid contract, third-party rights, remedies for breach of contract, sales and lease contracts, and special forms of contracts.
Business Law – Business Law addresses the topic of business entities and includes various related business law topics. Students will examine the principles relating to the key forms of business entities, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations. In addition, students will explore securities regulation, antitrust, consumer protection, bankruptcy law, and the regulation of business.
Certificate vs. certification
This Richmond paralegal certificate provides the knowledge and expertise to begin or advance your legal career. By evaluating your individual performance throughout the program, we provide personalized feedback and a more effective education. Our assessment-based certificate will help fast-track your paralegal career in Virginia.
Professional or personnel certification is a voluntary process by which individuals’ pre-acquired knowledge, skills or competencies are evaluated against predetermined standards. Participants who demonstrate that they meet the standards by successfully completing the assessment process are granted the certification. A great example of a certification is the National Association of Legal Assistants’ paralegal certification.
An assessment-based certificate program is a non-degree granting educational program that:
- Provides instruction and training to aid participants in acquiring specific knowledge, skills and/or competencies associated with intended learning outcomes
- Evaluates participants’ achievement of the intended learning outcomes
- Awards a certificate only to those participants who meet the performance, proficiency or passing standard for the assessment(s)
An assessment-based certificate is NOT a certificate of attendance or participation because participants must demonstrate accomplishment of the intended learning outcomes.
For additional information on assessment-based certificates, please visit the Institute for Credentialing Excellence website.